Excerpted from Forget-Me-Not
Take it. Take this little volume. Take it and think of me. Think in the hours of loneliness of the one who gave it thee and let it ne’er be forgot but let it whisper oft to thee the words of forget-me-not.
Absolom knew he couldn’t make a successful race in their wagon. Riding the animals that pulled it would be no better. Unlike the buggies and carts pulled by sleek horses, his lumbering oxen would be left behind in the choking dust of the warm April day. There had been no rain for two weeks. Absolom feared drouth. When he and Louisa decided to make the trip west, the lack of rain in Indian Territory concerned him. “How do you grow crops in layers of dust?,” he asked himself. Yet here they were. And if they staked enough land in the race, here they would stay.
“I think, Absolom,” mused Jacob, his brother-in-law, “that ye would not make it a foot beyond the starting gun with them lumberin’ beasts. Best you ride Xander, my young stallion. He’s fast. Long as there’s no mares either side of him, he’ll keep his mind on the journey.” It was settled with a handshake and a nod of the head. Absolom would ride Xander and when he found land suitable for both families, he would stake the four corners and stand guard. Jacob would bring along the two wagons hitched one to the other, his wagon with his family, Absolom’s wagon behind it pulled by the team of stout, snorting oxen. Louisa and the baby Edwin would ride the train into Indian Territory. “She’s in no mind to make the race in the wagon with the boy, Jacob. Ye’ll have an empty wagon so it will be terrible slow. I’m sorry that it will be such a dreadful trip for ye.”
Jacob laughed. “Me….I would rather be jigglin’ along in the wagon than balancin’ myself on a horse runnin’ like the wind. Good luck to ye!”
Absolom was beyond fear. His body shook as if he were diseased. All around him on the starting line the scene was grim–buggies, wagons, carts–and the hundreds of men and women on horseback, jostling each other for starting position. At the crack of the gun, Absolom shut his eyes and gave Xander his head. From that moment on, there would be no controlling the speeding horse. The noise was deafening. Shouting, screaming and now and then cursing as one horse-drawn vehicle clipped another and it overturned directly in the path of the oncoming hoard.
When Absolom finally opened his eyes, there were only a few racers within sight. Xander had done his job well. Now the frightened rider needed to find an empty space and bring the stallion to a stop. Straight ahead, in a grove of cottonwoods beside a nearly dry creek, was an isolated spot of open land. He guided the horse to a quick stop at the edge of the trees. Jumping off, he opened his saddle bags, drawing out the stakes with red pennants Louisa had sewn the night before. Carefully measuring from imaginary corner to imaginary corner, he staked a claim. This plot of land now belonged to him and to Jacob. Land of their own. He would no longer have to farm with his father-in-law.